THE LIVING EYES - The Living Eyes (Z-Man Records)
Scratch below the surface and you'll find the best thing going on in Oz rock these days is derivative, early-'60s punk rock. Take another look under the veneer and you'll find a good part of that action is going down in the scuzzy and economically run down Victorian city of Geelong. That's where The Living Eyes call home.

Damned if these guys and their neighbours/brothers The Frowning Clouds aren't among the best young Aussie bands around. Both The Clouds and The Eyes are deeply indebted to their dads' record collections (we're not talking K-Tel "20 Fabulous Hits" here) but what they're soaked up is interpreted through their own ears. In the case of The Living Eyes, it's retrogressive and reassuring but fresh, with a line drawn directly back through the early Stones and Kinks, The Missing Links and the Elevators.

The Living Eyes figured on 2012's Aussie "Nuggets" compilation and, fittingly enough, had a cassette out before a full-blown album. This makes sense.

The Living Eyes turn up the fuzz in parts and mostly eschew The Frowning Clouds' gentler touches. More whiny than snotty but gritty all the same, they play with an assured confidence that stamps these 11 songs as something special. Musty never smelt so good.

"The Living Eyes" takes a while to kick into full groove but once it does it doesn't let up. The slippery string run and rumbling bass emboss "Economy First" as the best of a bright bunch. Billy Gardner's chiming guitar and snarling vocal underlines that he's misunderstood but there's no missing the barbs in this wire. The chugging "Outta Doubt" kicks in straight after and finds Gardner and Mitch Campleman effectively meshing guitars while the engine room nails it to the floor.

"Heard It All Before" is the fuzzy barn-burner, a distorto stomp-around-the-block that spits defiance in every brief verse. Sparking guitars light up the break and then it's headlong into the outro. Of course that one and most of these songs average two-and-a-half minutes and the whole platter clocks in at just under 30 minutes. No sense sitting still for long.

Mr Everywhere on the Melbourne garage scene, Mikey Young, has done a magic job on production and it's no shock to find the album took just two days to record. Spontaneity well harnessed. The band sounds tight but the songs still breathe.

There's garage rock and there's garage rock. Sometimes the stripey shirts and AC-30s merge into a blur. Not so The Living Eyes. Trust me on this one. - The Barman


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